Tuesday, November 11, 2008 - Almanac Vol. 55, No. 12
A Reminder About 'Free' Wireless Networks
When turning on wireless networking, it is increasingly common to see a number of available networks to join. In fact, some newer devices actively alert the user to the presence of available networks. Some of those networks will be "free," even though there may be no indication of who is providing the service. Just as clicking a link in a "phishing" message may take you to a malicious website, joining an unknown wireless network may lead to compromise of your data.
Whenever possible (even on a secure wireless network), use applications that provide their own encryption. Because virtually all legitimate commercial websites use SSL encryption ("https://"), it's generally safe to shop online. Check with your email provider to see if they encrypt messages in transit -- if not, be cautious about using email on unknown networks. If you regularly use a wireless network provided by a reputable business, check their website for information about how they provide security for wireless sessions. Don’t join "free" and/or anonymous networks just because you can -- they may not be worth the risk.
For information on Penn’s wireless network, visit www.upenn.edu/computing/wireless/.